Obama formally taps Baucus as China envoy

President Obama on Friday formally nominated Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to serve as his next ambassador to China.

“For more than two decades Max Baucus has worked to deepen the relationship between the United States and China,” Obama said in a statement. “The economic agreements he helped forge have created millions of American jobs and added billions of dollars to our economy, and he’s perfectly suited to build on that progress in his new role.”

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Baucus' appointment had been widely rumored in Washington since Wednesday. The six-term senator had declined to comment but announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection in 2014.

Baucus has traveled to China many times and has long championed trade with the country, paving the way for the country's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

His nomination is expected to quickly sail through the Senate when lawmakers return in January despite his lack of experience dealing with the national security issues that are increasingly dominating U.S.-Chinese relations. 

Baucus announced his retirement from the Senate earlier this year, and Democrats are worried about losing his seat. It's possible the state's Democratic governor could name the leading Democratic candidate to replace Baucus to his seat, something that could help the party retain the seat.

Baucus said in a statement that his goal as ambassador would be to "further strengthen diplomatic and economic ties between our two nations."

“I am humbled by the nomination and deeply honored to have the opportunity to represent the United States in China," he said. "The U.S. – China relationship is one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships."

Baucus’s partner in his push for tax reform, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), hailed the senator as an “instant Hall-of-Famer” for his work on major legislation.

“From a legislative standpoint, Congress is losing a true giant. He has racked up more legislative victories than most can ever hope for,” said Camp, who is chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

“Dealing with China will not be an easy task, but I have learned to never underestimate Max.”

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